Hong Kong day 5

Today is an early start. I have ted bean and dried mandarin soup downstairs then get the metro to central and walk to the piers to meet KK. We are going to Lamma island, a quiet island of 2 villages and a coal/ gas power station. It’s quite a choppy ride on the ferry around the west of Hong Kong island through busy the bay busy with freight ships, Macau catermarans and tiny lurching fishing boats. The view of the island and the glass towers glittering in the sun is a wonderful sight. South of Hong Kong island Lamma comes into sight with its incongruous 3 chimneys rising above the hills. Yung shue long is the larger of the 2 villages and is a cluster of narrow streets, I believed to be serene but with frequent urgent traffic of quad bike tractor type machines driven by tanned sweating locals delivering goods. We walk past numerous sea food restaurants and tanks of fish unaware that they will be chosen and plucked out for someone’s lunch. By 10.30 it is very hot and the sun is strong. We have a pit stop at a ramshackle stall with a covered seating area for some sweetened tofu custard. The old man serving is rather confused with his maths. Through KK’s eavesdropping we learn he is 86. He has an audience with some kind of visiting social worker who is rather harsh and cruel in her speech as she talks about his difficulties to the group of teenagers with her. Maybe they are her students. Quite soon an old woman appears. Evidently the wife and 82 years old. She is critical of this woman but also her husband for not clearing the tables. This ancient sprightly woman leaps to work all the time cracking jokes in hokkien with some other customers. Eventually the daughter appears and takes over. We walk a little further to hung shing ye beach. A Christian youth group are sat in a circle reading the bible on their phones. Several people are swimming. A shark net demarks the safety zone. We sit in shade by the barbecue pits. Kk isn’t too keen on sea and sand. We talk about religion. We get hungry and have to retrace our steps ending up in the bookworm cafe. The walls are full of books. Coincidentally we are sitting in front of the philosophy and theology section. We both have something South American. Mine is a plate of tortillas, and a vile green looking shake, which doesn’t taste bad. I spy a learn Cantonese book and cd and challenge KK’s comprehension of my poor pronunciation of stock phrases and numbers. I use this guide to ask for the bill.

Our walk across the island resumes. Back At the beach we stand in sweltering heat and harsh sunlight under an umbrella as KK resumes his filming of a wall of sand next to a small channel slowly collapsing. Like seven sisters or Grand Canyon he says. After 15 minutes his phone is over heating so we stop. The path across the island climbs shrubby hills revealing views of the power station. It feels a little Mediterranean. At a peak we stop at a gazebo and buy a freshly cut slice of pineapple to share and end up getting sticky. We are beginning to get bitten by mosquitoes. I point out banana trees and their phallic flowers to KK. He has not seen this before. There is another orange pod like fruit that I can’t identify. We descend into a hamlet where locals are drying grasses and down to the quiet beach of lo so shing where I have a tranquil float whilst KK paces up and down trying to avoid insects. We time our departure from the beach well as dusk falls quickly. We pass a cave full of water that is supposedly a half finished bay for kamikaze boats of the Japanese. We round a muddy estuary, pass a small temple and find ourselves in a narrow alley in sok Kwu wan lined with seafood restaurants, not so busy as it is a week day. I have a beer, KK a coke, as he likes the bottle, and we wait for the ferry. I’m feeling a bit nauseous and think I have a bit of heat stroke. I have an early night.

Hong Kong day 4

A day on my own today. Starting by a trip to the veggie dim sum stall, then a walk to hau temple garden. The temple is the usual affair of incense and bowing, whilst the sprawling mama of the temple and the man selling incense sticks are more engaging subject matter. I breakfast in the garden. Under the pergola is a group of picnicking maids. The steps at the back of the garden take me to a road in which an ancient huge tree with hanging roots causes the carriage way to bisect it. I’m climbing flights of steps which rapidly take me up past schools, tamarind trees and swish apartment blocks to the beautifully named cloud view road. My google map is disorientated and I’m heading in the opposite direction to my intended one to tin hau, and also, I find out later, and the map doesn’t show elevation, that I’m about 100 m higher up than need be! The views down onto the repeated blank windows of causeway bay and glimpses of ships in the twinkling blue sea in nooks between this pattern are awesome. I find myself looking down on an artificial sports ground, situated on top of a covered reservoir. Bright green and terracotta in colour. It’s a sweltering mid day, yet there is a game of football going on and as I descent to take a look see a couple of glistening joggers. It’s serene and other worldly scene, backgrounded by the soaring towers. My walk takes me to a bus terminal on possibly the highest point on the road, which then sweeps majestically round a hospital and along the ridge of the hill flanked to the left by a long residential block of 20 floors. Old women and a Boy Scout wait for the bus. There is a switchback as the road snakes rapidly downhill. The drop to the left is accessed by some steep steps and looks inviting. By now I’m trusting my nose and this is the right direction. Away from the road the walkway is tranquil and unlike the hk I’ve seen so far. Happy kids and mums skip down steps. There is one of the brightly coloured kids play areas I’ve been getting used to seeing and a public siting area, again occupied by maids. I’ve never den kids in these play areas. Opposite the play area is an eye catching Art Deco era block house of 4 stories. I’d like to think of it as authentic to the character of this neighbourhood. I’ve reached elusive tin hau. This pocket of calm is nestled against the mountain in a gorge that opens out into causeway road. Easy to teach from there, but I had no idea of its proximity. It’s a a small neighbourhood laid out grid like with small low buildings. Old people sitting on chairs on the streets, long queues for the famous congee shop. A snarling dog prohibits me from entering a tiny street side shrine cum temple. I chat to a local woman who says she wonders why the fog is so unfriendly to me, this doesn’t happen to the locals… I’m looking for the Lin Ka fung temple which is at the end of a little street backing the mountain directly below my earlier walk. It’s an odd round grey squat building with unusually 2 side entrances and a kind of balcony where you would normally expect the entrance to be. It seems popular with locals and there is an oldish venerable balding man in glasses reading fortunes.
On leaving the temple I’m now walking along side the fences of tennis courts, the former site of a wide open drainage channel which emptied into the canal where causeway road now is. It’s a surprise to find myself on causeway, now in full Saturday afternoon mode. Next to the courts and by the library is a sports ground with a jogging track. I go and watch. The runners for the main part look like they are stoically undergoing some kind of extreme punishment. Even the two young kids in their argentine and muller, Germany football shirts seem to be hobbling.

I cross the footbridge and am in Victoria park, shady promenades, artificial football pitches, surrounded by the inevitable sky scrapers. The most amazing thing is the presence of thousands of young women, Indonesian mainly, and mainly bescarved muslims picnicking en masse. Some are playing informal badminton, some dancing. There are a few stalls, seemingly advertising wedding packages. Whilst sitting in the shade on the pitch I’m approached by 4 red shirted girls in their early twenties who ask me if I want to take their pic with the backdrop of causeway bay skyline. They are quite extravert and tell me they work here and are also a hip hop dance group, which they then demonstrate. I cross through the park and the pavement under the flyover is equally crowded. I see a man giving guitar lessons and several Indonesian restaurants.

On the main shopping drag of causeway bay is a rally. The local elections are coming soon and you see the faces of the various candidates on the sides of buses, on fliers and now in the flesh. This party are yellow and identified by number 7. Their supporters are I yellow t shirts and have adopted white framed glasses as the symbol of the leader, nicknamed 4 eyes. There is a lot of cheering and a number of impassioned speeches, of which I understand nothing. One of these is a guy who styles himself like a pop star. Kk has told me he works in new media and has a gold coloured Mercedes. On his poster he looks like a boxer. KK is a fan. Tom says he has shown himself to be a little uninformed but is building support on charisma.

All my batteries are exhausted. I go home for a rest, then meet tom for dinner. This is in a great Taiwanese veggie restaurant where we have a yellow curry and fried mock chicken. It’s noisy and clattery here. Tom says this is normal in a dim sum place. Twice one of the waiters smashing a plate on the floor.